Last week I attended Astricon 2017, in Orlando, FL. I’ve attended every Astricon since 2007, each time as a speaker – and last week was the first time as a sponsor. People normally believe that companies sponsor things in trade shows according to the exposure they want to get, that is normally true. However, for Greenfield, sponsorship meant something else. We wanted to sponsor something that meant something for us, which means, an event within the conference we feel close to and see a value to the community. As a result, we’ve decided to sponsor Dangerous Demos, which had become during the past few years one of the highlights of the show. To those who are not familiar, Dangerous Demos is a section of the show, where talented developers/makers/inventors will come up on stage, showing off a cool thing they created – preferably, during the course of the conference or demoing a cool proof of concept. Why does Greenfield have an affinity to Dangerous Demos? Simple, as the makers of cloudonix.io we see ourselves and makers and innovators, thus, we felt that putting our name on this section would best represent the things we believe in.

Now, while most of the demos that were presented indeed showed original work and high level of talent, I can’t stress out how disgusted I was with “false dangerous demos” that came on stage. With all due respect, going on the stage and showing off a feature of a commercial product is simply not the spirit of dangerous demos. This is all about being original, being cheeky, walking on the bleeding edge willing to fail publicly and having a good laugh about it. For me, Dangerous Demos is very much like climbing Mt. Everest – We climb it because it’s there and its a challenge. We want to climb it with our feet and grit, not reach the top of the mountain with a helicopter. Yes, indeed the feature shown by company X or Y had talented people work on it, but there is no risk associated with it – as the feature simply works.

This years’ Astricon marked a special occasion, this was the first time that all leading Open Source VoIP projects participated in the show: Asterisk, Freeswitch, Kamailio, OpenSIPS and Homer. Now, for those who are new to this community, this would seem like something trivial and meaningless. For someone like me, who had been with these projects for over a decade, it’s nothing short than a miracle for something like this to happen. Some may not know this, but Freeswitch developer were originally working on the Asterisk project, while OpenSIPS developers were originally working on the Kamailio (OpenSER) project. The projects branched off due to differences of opinions between people, hence the splits. For example, while Freeswitch people were a little fed-up with the methodology with which Digium was accepting patches to the project, the OpenSIPS project people wanted to go to a more “market oriented” product, while the original OpenSER was fairly “Academic” in nature. The diversity of people and diversity of opinions is the thing that drove all these projects to their success. Nonetheless, when the projects split, some invisible “bad-blood” could have been sensed. Since the various splits, over a decade passed and I believe that the various projects had come to accept one another. Where one project took one path, the other took another, eventually turning each project into its own unique being, instead of being a mere competitive clone. I’ve known most of the people involved in these projects and their creation over the years and during previous years, it was always hard to get them to talk, due to these feelings. Last week was the first time that some of them met face-to-face in over 12 years, which was impressive. I’m not sure exactly who is the person behind this “summit of the minds”, but who ever they are, they need to keep this up and make sure that the projects keep on innovating and succeeding.

Now, let’s talk content. The overall panel of talks and presentations that Astricon boasts is nothing short of amazing. The sheer number of speakers and subjects turns the event to something that is sometimes confusing and hard to attend. Multiple talks at the same time, on 4-5 different tracks, with multiple points of interest always pose a hard choice – “What should I attend?”. However, this year was one of the most packed ones. For example, during the pre-conference day (AKA: DevCon), RedHat held a “NFV Track” which I really wanted to attend, but couldn’t, as I was attending DevCon. I wanted to attend some of the container talks, but couldn’t, as I was either talking at the same time – or was attending a different talk as well. In other words, I really hope the Video’s are good, as I would be truly disappointed. In this respect, I really like KamailioWorld. This one has one track, mostly technical in nature – and you can attend all the talks. It’s not because there aren’t enough speakers, I’m confident that many people answer the call-for-papers, it’s simply a choice of the organizers. In the past, Astricon used to have 3 tracks, thus the choice was simpler. I believe that maybe adding another day to the conference, or changing the format a little bit will enable people to get more from the conference.

I have other thoughts, but I believe these are the primary ones. C’ya all again next year @Astricon 2018.

 

As the world around changes, services are rapidly changing from human rendered services, to bots and applications that run on your mobile device. Ranging from your local pizza shop, to a multi-billion corporation – all are rapidly moving to the bot/application economy paradigm – in order to facilitate growth and lower their TCO.

According to SkyHigh Networks study, the following may come as a shock to most – but most  enterprises will use up to 900 different cloud applications. These require an amazing number  of over 1,500 different cloud services in order to work. Out of these 1,500 cloud services, a group of 50 top-most cloud services can be observed, normally relating directly to infrastructure – we’ll call these “Super Clouds”.

The “Super Clouds” can be divided into several “Primary” groups:

– Infrastructure Clouds (Amazon AWS, Google Compute, Microsoft Azure, etc.)
– Customer Relation Clouds (Salesforce, ZenDesk, etc.)
– Real Time Communication Clouds (Twilio, Nexmo, Tropo, etc.)

It is very common for a company to work solely with various cloud services – in order to provide a service. However, using cloud services has a tipping point, which is: “When is a cloud service no longer commercially viable for my service?” – or in other words: “When do I become Uber for  Twilio?”

Twilio’s stock recently dropped significantly, following Uber’s announcement – http://bit.ly/2rVbzxG. Judging from the PR, Uber was paying Twilio over $12M a year for their services, which means that for same cash, Uber could actually buyout a telecom company to do the same service. And apparently, this is exactly what’s going to happen, as Uber works to establish the same level of service with internal resources.

Now, the question that comes to mind is the following: “What is my tipping point?” – and while most will not agree with my writing (specifically if they are working for an RTC Cloud service), every, and I do mean EVERY type of service has a tipping point. To figure out an estimate your tipping point, try following the below rules to provide an “educated guess” of your tipping point – before getting there.

Rules of Thumb

  • Your infrastructure cloud is the least of your worries
    As storage, CPU, networking and bandwidth costs drop world-wide – so does your infrastructure costs. IaaS and PaaS providers are constantly updating prices and are in constant competition. In addition, when you commit to certain sizing, they can be negotiated with. I have several colleagues working at the 3 main competitors – they are in such competition, where they are willing to pay the migration prices and render services for up to 12 or 24 months for free, in order to get new business.
  • Customer Relation Clouds hold your most critical data
    As your service/product is consumer oriented, your customers are your most important asset. Take great care at choosing your partner and make sure you don’t outgrow them. In addition, make sure that if you use one, you truly need their service. Sometimes, a simple VTiger or other self hosted CRM will be enough. In other words, Salesforce isn’t always the answer.
  • Understand your business
    If your business is selling rides (Uber, Lyft, Via, etc), tools like Twilio are a pure expense. If your business is building premium rate services or providing custom IVR services, Twilio is part of your pricing model. Understand how each and every cloud provider affects your business, your bottom line and most importantly, its affect on the consumer.

Normally, most companies in the RTC space will start using Amazon AWS as their IaaS and services such as Twilio, Plivo, Tropo and others as their CPaas. Now, let us examine a hypothetical service use case:

– Step 1: User uses an application to dial into an IVR
– Step 2: IVR uses speech recognition to analyze the caller intent
– Step 3: IVR forwards the call to a PSTN line and records the call for future transcription

Let us assume that we utilize Twilio to store the recordings, Google Speech API for transcription, Twilio for the IVR application and we’re forwarding to a phone number in the US. Now, let’s assume that the average call duration is 5 minutes. Thus, we can extrapolate the following:

– Cost of transcription using Google Speech API: $0.06 USD
– Cost of call termination: $0.065 USD
– Cost of call recording: $0.0125 USD
– Cost of IVR handling at Twilio: $0.06 USD

So, where is the tipping point for this use case? Let’s try and separate into 2 distinct business cases: a chargeable service (a transcription service) and a free service (eg. Uber Driver Connection).

  • A Chargeable Service
    Assumption: we charge a flat $0.25 USD per minute
    Let’s calculate our monthly revenue and expense according to the number of users and minutes served.

– Up-to 1,000 users – generating 50,000 monthly minutes: $12,500 – $9,625 = $2,875
– Up-to 10,000 users – generating 500,000 monthly minutes: $125,000 – $96,250 = $28,750
– Up-to 50,000 users – generating 2,500,000 monthly minutes: $625,000 – $481,250 = $143,750

Honestly, not a bad model for a medium size business. But the minute you take in the multitude of marketing costs, office costs, operational costs, etc – you need around 500,000 users in order to truly make your business profitable. Yes, I can negotiate some volume discounts with Twilio and the Google, but still, even after that, my overall discount will be 20%? maybe 30% – so the math will look like this:

– Up-to 1,000 users – generating 50,000 monthly minutes: $12,500 – $9,625 = $2,875
– Up-to 10,000 users – generating 500,000 monthly minutes with a 30% discount: $125,000 – $48,475 = $57,625
– Up-to 50,000 users – generating 2,500,000 monthly minutes with a 30% discount: $625,000 – $336,875 = $288,125

But, just to be honest with ourselves, even at a monthly cost of $48,475 USD, I can actually build my own platform to do the same thing. In this case, the 500,000 minutes mark is very much a tipping point.

  • A Free Service
    Assumption: we charge a flat $0.00 USD per minute
    Let’s calculate our monthly revenue and expense according to the number of users and minutes served.

– Up-to 1,000 users – generating 50,000 monthly minutes: $9,625
– Up-to 10,000 users – generating 500,000 monthly minutes with a 30% discount: $48,475
– Up-to 50,000 users – generating 2,500,000 monthly minutes with a 30% discount: $336,875

In this case, there is just no case in building this service using Twilio or a similar service, because it will be too darn expensive from the start. Twilio will provide a wonderful test bed and PoV environment, but when push comes to shove – it will just not hold up the financial aspects.This is a major part why services such as Uber, Lyft, Gett and others will eventually leave Twilio type services, simply due to the fact that at some point, the service they are consuming becomes too expensive – and they must take the service back home to make sure they are competitive and profitable.

When Greenfield started working on Cloudonix – we understood from the start the above growth issue, and that’s why Cloudonix isn’t priced or serviced in such a way. In addition, as Cloudonix includes the ability to obtain your own slice of Cloudonix or even your own on premise installation – your investment is always safe.

To learn more about our Cloudonix CPaaS and our On-premise offering, click here.

Recently, a friend sent me a link to the TED talk appearing below:

I found the talk not only interesting, but also it made me think about the Open Source world, trying to apply the same concepts and thinking. I rapidly realised that the Open Source world also has its own set of Takers, Givers and Matchers.

So, let’s talk a little bit about Open Source Givers. The givers will be those who either initiate in open source project, constantly contribute to open source projects, preach and promote the usage of open source as a way of life and most importantly – they do so not because of a commercial or financial agenda – they do so because that’s what they believe in. These include people like John “Maddog” Hall, Linux Torvalds, Richard Stallman, Brian Kernighan, Dennis Ritchie and many others. These people operate under a premise that their work is vitally important, not the world, to mankind and the well being of others.

So, who are our Open Source takers? sorry to say, the number of Open Source takers is far greater than that of the givers. The takers are your “Script kiddies” or “Closed integrators”. Those people who use and abuse Open Source without acknowledging its existence.  In Israel, as an example, when Open Source was still in its infancy stage – people were roaming about claiming that they created a specific project or other. For example, I recall that in 2006, a company in Israel claimed it was the creator of Asterisk – and that their AMP based PBX system is their own creation. How Rude!

Who are your Open Source matchers? matchers are people who jump from being a giver and a taker according to their requirements. These people utilize open source projects, contribute code from time to time, promote the project – nominally due to a business reasoning – and these constitute a slightly bigger portion than the givers. While Open Source innovation relies on Givers, it’s progress into the business world and adaptation to the enterprise relies mostly on Matchers. Takers do not promote the Open Source industry, in some extreme cases, the actually harm the industry.

So, are you a giver, matcher or a taker?

I love the feeling of unboxing a brand new IP phone, specifically, when it’s one that comes from Digium. Yes, I’m a little biased, I admit it – but I’ll do my best to refrain from dancing in the rain with this post.

So, during ITExpo 2017 (Ft. Lauderdale, Florida), Digium unveiled their new D65 Color Screen IP phone. Malcolm Davenport and the good people at Digium were inclined to send me a couple of phones for testing, which I was fairly happy to do – specifically due to the addition of the Opus Codec to the hardware.

If you are not familiar with Opus – you had most probably been living under a rock for the past 3-4 years. Opus is the codec that makes tools like Skype, Hangouts and others work so well. Unlike the traditional g7xx codecs, Opus is a variable bit rate codec, provides HD voice capabilities, has superior network conditions handling (via FEC) and in all – is a far better codec for any VoIP platform. You’re probably asking what is FEC? I’ll explain later.

Consistency and simplicity are a must – and Digium phones are both. One of the things I really like about Digium phones is that they are simple to configure, even without DPMA. The screens are identical to the previous models and are so tight together, that getting a phone up and running takes no longer than a few seconds.

Minor disappointment – the phones were shipped with a firmware that didn’t include the Opus codec – so I had to upgrade the firmware. Ok, no big deal there – but a minor nuisance.

So, I proceeded to get the phone configured to work with our Cloudonix.io platform. What is cloudonix.io? Cloudonix is our home-grown Real Time Communications Cloud platform – but that’s a different post altogether. This nice thing about Cloudonix is that it utilizes Opus to its full extent. Ranging from dynamic Jitter Buffering, Forward Error Correction across the entire media stack, Variable bit rate and sample rate support (via the Cloudonix.io mobile SDK) – in other words, if the Digium phones performs as good as the Cloudonix.io mobile SDK – we have a solid winner here.

So, I hooked the phone up and then proceeded to do some basic condition testing with Opus. All tests were conducted in the following manner:

  • Step 1: Connectivity with no network quality affects
  • Step 2: Introduction of 5% packet loss (using `neteq`)
  • Step 3: Introduction of 10% packet loss (using `neteq`)
  • Step 4: Introduction of 15% packet loss (using `neteq`)
  • Step 5: Introduction of 20% packet loss (using `neteq`)
  • Step 6: Introduction of 25% packet loss (using `neteq`)
  • Step 7: Extreme condition of 40% packet loss (using `neteq`)

Test 1: Media Relay and server located under 150mSec away

  • Step 1: Audio was perfect, HD Voice was exhibited all the way
  • Step 2: Audio was perfect, HD Voice was exhibited all the way
  • Step 3: Audio was good, HD Voice was exhibited all the way, minor network reconditioning at the beginning, till FEC kicks fully in
  • Step 4: Audio was good, SD Voice was exhibited all the way, minor network reconditioning at the beginning, till FEC kicks fully in
  • Step 5: Audio was fair, SD Voice was exhibited all the way, moderate network reconditioning at the beginning, till FEC kicks fully in
  • Step 6: Audio was fair, SD Voice was exhibited all the way, major network reconditioning at the beginning, till FEC kicks fully in
  • Step 7: Audio was fair, SD Voice was exhibited all the way, extreme network reconditioning at the beginning, till FEC kicks fully in

Test 2: Media Relay and server located under 250mSec away

  • Step 1: Audio was perfect, HD Voice was exhibited all the way
  • Step 2: Audio was perfect, HD Voice was exhibited all the way
  • Step 3: Audio was good, SD Voice was exhibited all the way, minor network reconditioning at the beginning, till FEC kicks fully in
  • Step 4: Audio was good, SD Voice was exhibited all the way, moderate network reconditioning at the beginning, till FEC kicks fully in
  • Step 5: Audio was fair, SD Voice was exhibited all the way, major network reconditioning at the beginning, till FEC kicks fully in
  • Step 6: Audio was fair, SD Voice was exhibited all the way, major network reconditioning at the beginning, till FEC kicks fully in
  • Step 7: Audio was fair, SD Voice was exhibited all the way, extreme network reconditioning at the beginning, till FEC kicks fully in

Test 3: Media Relay and server located under 450mSec away

  • Step 1: Audio was perfect, SD Voice was exhibited all the way
  • Step 2: Audio was perfect, SD Voice was exhibited all the way
  • Step 3: Audio was good, SD Voice was exhibited all the way, minor network reconditioning at the beginning, till FEC kicks fully in
  • Step 4: Audio was good, SD Voice was exhibited all the way, major network reconditioning at the beginning, till FEC kicks fully in
  • Step 5: Audio was fair, SD Voice was exhibited all the way, major network reconditioning at the beginning, till FEC kicks fully in
  • Step 6: Audio was fair, SD Voice was exhibited all the way, extreme network reconditioning at the beginning, till FEC kicks fully in
  • Step 7: Audio was fair, SD Voice was exhibited all the way, extreme network reconditioning at the beginning, till FEC kicks fully in

Ok, I was willing to accept the fact that if I’m able to carry a good audio call, for almost 3-4 minutes, while `neteq` was introducing a static 20% packet-loss condition – sounds like a winner to me.

All in all, till I get my hands on the Digium D80 for testing it’s Opus capabilities, the D65 is by far my “Go To Market” IP Phone for desktop Opus support – 2 thumbs up!

The box! What is the box? is it the teaching and constructs we’ve been taught over the years? the sum of experience and know-how? the various community or industry constraints and rules put upon us to conform? – Regardless what the box may be, everybody always tells us to “Think outside of the box”.

However, is “Thinking outside of the box” real? or is it something else? I personally believe the first element, and also the crucial part of that phrase is “Thinking”. Most people are not truly accustomed to thinking, they are mostly accustomed to “doing”, “following”, “leading” – not “thinking”. So, what am I ranting about exactly?

As a technology innovator I don’t believe the box is really there, a problem is a challenge to be resolved – it is not a box. As you can’t confine a problem/challenge to a box, it is an amorphous entity – my thinking patterns can’t be “outside of the box, simple because there is no BOX! The box is only in our mind – forcing ourselves to “Out of box” thinking is actually putting ourselves back into the confines of the box.

Solving complex challenges requires thinking first, then innovation and delivery. While thinking is something most people take for granted, as they believe they do it all the time, it’s actually a fairly complex process. Thinking involves one very special thing – that is letting go. Letting go of your own inhibitions, letting go of your own fear – and foremost, the willingness to step out of your normal comfort zone and looking at problems from a fresh new angle.

Over the course of time, I’ve been involved with multiple ventures that required this type of thinking. Some were successful, some had failed miserably – and some had went up in flames, that left the earth around its remains mostly scorched – with friends now not willing to talk to one another. Why have these companies failed? why have they gone to ashes? most of them actually had very innovative products and ideas, it can’t be that they truly went up in flames – or was actually something else that causes its demise?

Again, we come back to the box – and the realisation that the box, isn’t really a box – it’s an IKEA set of honeycombs, stacked together into a highly complex array of shelves, that are barely viable to the naked eye – but to the keen observer, will present multiple opportunities and possibilities.

Companies, regardless of their industry, are normally built of the same operational units:
1. Management
2. Marketing
3. Sales
4. Operations
5. Human Resources
6. Research and Development
7. Manufacturing

Now, normally – we would expect “out-of-box” thinking from R&D, Marketing and Sales. However, these will always be limited to the ability of Management and Operations to think “out-of-box”. If company management is limited by its thinking – that will automatically affect all operational units in the company – which will eventually bring to its slow and gruesome demise.

Another reason for untimely demise is the inability to respect the so called “Box”. It may be that you are willing to let go of the box, you are willing to say: “The box isn’t real”, but, it may be that your target market or audience is still kept in the “Box”. In such a case, taking your audience out of the “Box” is a highly challenging task – where most pioneers will fail. Why will it fail? it takes a very special individual to be able to do that. Not only he needs to be a true visionary, he needs to be able to convince other people of his belief. And most importantly, it can’t be some random hired person – it has to be a founder, a true believe of the cause, a person so capable of immersing himself in the idea – that it becomes an integral part of his being, anything else will just not work.

It takes a true genius to take an audience and shift their minds from the box, very few had succeeded. Look around you? how many people do you know of who are capable of doing that? Personally speaking, I can list a few, but counting will require less than my right hand. Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Richard Branson, Stephen Hawking – these are all pioneers who had challenged the “box” and managed to educate the audience that the “box” isn’t really there. Was Steve Jobs a technology genius? – NO. Is Elon Musk a master electrical engineer, most probably not. They are thought leaders, mind shapers – they are the ones will look at and say: “He’s a smart guy, maybe I should listen to him”, and it’s not really because they are smart. It’s because they were able to convince us, with their own conviction and determination, that they should be listened to.

Dr. Who once said: “I’m just a mad man in a box” (Yes, I’m a moderate whovian), that is further from the truth. The tardis is always “bigger on the inside”, and thus, the “Box” isn’t limited to own physical borders, and anything always “out-of-box”.

So, next time you encounter a problem, try challanging yourself by saying: “Ok, let’s think about this from a new point of view, maybe there is another solution”. Next time when you interview someone for a position at your company, try to say: “Ok, is this guy truly what my team needs? or do I need something else?” – look at the box, shatter it to pieces and build something new from it – out of chaos comes order – out of rubble comes greatness.